Bourbon Burning: 45,000 Barrels Of Jim Beam Destroyed In Massive Fire In Kentucky

Scott OlsonGetty Images

Fire crews are on scene as a major fire rips through a Jim Beam Bourbon warehouse facility in Versailles, Kentucky, engulfing two storage facilities, according to WKYT TV on Wednesday.

The blaze began in the aging warehouse on McCracken Pike, near the Franklin County line around 11:30 p.m.

The fire has been put out in one of the warehouses, while an estimated 45,000 barrels of bourbon are burning in another warehouse facility that’s still grappling with the massive fire.

It’s unclear what caused the destructive blaze, but Woodford County Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler told WKYT-TV that it may have been caused by a lightning strike.

“The fire is still too hot to get any investigator in. We heard there was lightning in the area but we have no way of confirming that.”

A nearby road has been shut down as crews battle the blaze.

Chandler also said that fire crews would likely need “a good six to eight hours” to finish fighting the flames.

“With the bourbon spirits, there’s just a lot of material to burn,” Chandler said. “You can’t throw enough water on it to knock it down.”

One standard bourbon barrel usually holds about 53 gallons of bourbon that eventually turns into around 150 to 200 750-milliliter bottles.

“I was standing 100 yards away (from the warehouse), and it’s hot,” Chandler said. “(Crews) can’t get close enough.”

A Versailles Police Department official said five or six agencies are responding to the fire, which is near the former Old Crow Distillery.

According to the Lexington Herald Leader, the National Weather Service reported rain in the area of the fire and recorded “a few” lighting strikes Wednesday morning.

Members of the state’s Department for Environmental Protection were on scene Wednesday as well as representatives from the American Red Cross.

The Bluegrass Emergency Response Team out of Lexington, who deal with hazmat, rescue, natural disaster response, radiological, and mass casualty incidents, delivered foam to fight the fire, according to WKYT. Woodford Feed in Versailles delivered sand to build barriers around the facility to prevent unwanted materials from leaking into the nearby water systems, said Chandler. Firefighters requested the sand to prevent runoff to Glenns Creek, Chandler told the Lexington Herald Leader.

Some water sampling has already begun to determine whether nearby creeks have been contaminated.

Jim Beam produces its bourbon whiskey in Clermont, Kentucky, roughly 25 miles south of Louisville.

No deaths or injuries have been reported.